Metro Detroit faith leaders call on state senate to declare racism a public health crisis

Online town hall meeting held to discuss the impact of systemic racism

Faith leaders call on state senate to declare racism a public health crisis

LANSING, Mich. – A group of faith and civic leaders came together Wednesday to call on Lansing to do more to fight systemic racism.

It comes as a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis has stalled in the State Senate despite broad support.

Several faith and community leaders -- both Black and white -- held an online town hall meeting on Wednesday afternoon. They talked about the impact of systemic racism on people of color.

Pastor Quantez Pressley, with 3rd New Hope Baptist Church, said what has been going on in our country is raising awareness to what’s been going on for years.

“Racism is a public health crisis that has been exacerbated by the parallel pandemics of social unrest as it relates to police violence as well as the pandemic," Pressley said. “It’s disproportionally impacting Black and Brown communities.”

But Pressley said this public health crisis is twofold,.

When we started to see the disproportionate amount of African Americans who are dying as a result of COVID, it really caused us to ask some serious questions as to why," Pressley said. "Environmental injustices, rather it’s African Americans living in low income neighborhoods that are often next to corporations that are polluting the air, whether it’s the food deserts that impoverished communities don’t have equal access to healthy and fresh foods.”

These leaders are now taking their concerns to Lansing, demanding something to be done.

“We have found some willing partners particularly in Governor Gretchen Whitmer as she has convened a task force to being see and study these disparities and move forward to solutions. Our state house and Senate are under Republican controlling. So our desire is to increase the capacity of moral leadership again by calling it a Public Health Crisis," Pressley said. “Our hope is through these efforts is that we can put some pressure and provide some support to our legislative body to begin to close these disparities, by the simple things like access to healthcare, access to fresh food and groceries, providing those a safety net who needs economic support.”

Related: Michigan to require implicit bias training for health professionals to address racial disparities